Every January we are bombarded with predictions of what will be the biggest food trends of the year ahead. While there are often a couple of random ideas thrown around, like drinking alpaca milk or eating insects, it is useful to keep across the supermarket products you will be seeing more of in 2024.

All things protein

Food manufacturers understand that if they slap the word “protein” on any food, whether it is pizza, ice cream, cottage cheese or a snack, it will instantly be considered “healthier”. And when it comes to predicted global health trends, protein-enriched foods are top of the list.

Protein has a positive association between muscle mass and positive ageing, so expect to see more foods on supermarket shelves highlighted for their increased protein intake, even if they already offer protein. Keep in mind that to deliver any upside, a serving of protein would need to be more than 10-20g, so eating a processed snack food that offers 5g or less protein is unlikely to deliver any significant benefit.

Are they worth the hype?

Protein is an essential nutrient, especially as we move through our 40s and 50s, and while many of us get plenty of protein at night thanks to large serves of meat, chicken and fish, our intake can be a little low during the day. Seeking out protein-rich foods that offer 10-20g of protein per serve can help to increase your overall intake, which has benefits for satiety, metabolism, glucose metabolism and to support the maintenance of muscle mass as we get older.

Performance beverages

For anyone looking for a natural performance edge, chances are you have heard of adaptogens – the name given to a group of plant-based foods including various herbs and concentrated powders associated with improved mood, hormone function, immune function and higher energy levels.

Adaptogens such as ginseng are already added to foods such as tea, and more recently there has been a growing range of drinks associated with improved memory, brain function and mood targeting those seeking out improved cognitive performance.

In the general beverage section you can find low-sugar, low-calorie drinks that are associated with increased energy, mood, memory and concentration, which can be appealing when you are looking for a little boost.

Are they worth the hype?

While some of the adaptogens added to, or concentrated in these drinks are associated with health benefits, few studies confirm they do exactly what they claim to do. While they may not cause harm, they are not guaranteed to improve performance. For anyone taking medication, it is important to also check that there are no interactions between various herbal adaptogens, especially those found in oral supplements, which tend to be more concentrated.

More beans and legume-based foods

Legume-based foods (lentils, chickpeas, beans) have been on the rise for the past few years for several reasons.

They are extremely cost-effective as a base ingredient and can be easily made into lower-carbohydrate varieties of pasta, plant-based milks, chips and snacks.

Legumes are also a nutrient-rich whole food, offering protein and dietary fibre, as well as a range of key vitamins and minerals.

Plus, legumes are also highly under-consumed in the Australian market, so there is a huge opportunity for market expansion.

Expect to see a lot more pea, edamame and chickpea-based products, including pastas, snack foods, crackers, chips and salads, on supermarket shelves this year.

Are they worth the hype?

Legume-based alternatives to wheat-based crackers and chips generally offer more nutritionally, with more dietary fibre and protein per serve in most cases, but can also still be ultra-processed foods containing plenty of refined vegetable oil.

Focus on legume-based whole food products such as pasta and salads, rather than assuming a processed snack food is significantly better if made from peas or beans.

Foods for sleep

How many people do you know who struggle with sleep? The ubiquitousness of sleep issues is why many hot nighttime drink mixes and snack bars specifically formulated for their association with relaxation and sleep have been popping up in supermarkets and health-food stores.

With added magnesium or tart cherry, or containing naturally occurring melatonin or amino-acid levels in the baseline ingredients, these products are “associated with” relaxation and sleep but are not necessarily proven to reap actual benefits.

In general, these foods are relatively healthy, nutritious options, but at a higher price point, so keep in mind they aren’t guaranteed to help you sleep better. But thinking you will sleep better after consuming them may be all you need to catch a bit more shut-eye.

Are they worth the hype?

Despite popular belief, there is no single food proven to improve the ability to get to sleep, or stay there. At best, there is an association between some nutrients and relaxation, or the added ingredients such as melatonin are not necessarily in therapeutic doses, so while these foods are not harmful, they do not guarantee an improvement in sleep.